The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ONGC steals show in race for oil blocks

New Delhi, Sept. 30: Domestic oil companies led by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have emerged as the main contenders for the 22 oil exploration blocks that have attracted bids in round four of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp).

ONGC has bid for 21 blocks either individually or in partnership with other public sector oil companies. The company has bid for six blocks in partnership with Oil India Ltd (OIL). ONGC has entered the race for another eight blocks either with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd or Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. This marks the entry of these two downstream refining and petro goods companies in the upstream oil exploration sector. ONGC has also partnered Cairn Energy of UK in some blocks keeping in view its performance in the country.

There are nine foreign companies that have bid for the blocks mainly in partnership with Indian companies. Global major BG and Russian gas giant Zarubezneftgaz have each bid for one block in partnership with Gail (India) Ltd. Cairn Energy, Hardy Oil of UK and Niko Resources of Canada have put in bids in partnership with Indian companies.

Reliance Industries (RIL) has bid for eight blocks in partnership with Hardy Oil.

Sixteen of the 24 blocks that were put on offer have attracted more than one bid. While no bids were received for one block in Manipur and another in the Tamil Nadu offshore area, six blocks have received single bids.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik had undertook a three-nation roadshow to attract foreign firms. “The response this time has been better than the previous three rounds of bidding,” Naik said.

He said the bids would be evaluated within two months and the agreements would be signed in January after the cabinet approval was obtained so that exploration could begin soon.

The government had so far awarded 70 oil and gas blocks in the previous three rounds of bidding, Naik said, adding that more blocks would be offered for bidding in the fifth round of Nelp in April-June next year.

ONGC and OIL have jointly put in bids for a block each in Tripura, Assam and Nagaland. ONGC has chosen to go solo for the two deep sea blocks off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It will be competing with Reliance Industries and Niko for the two blocks.

Industry observers said the Nelp IV bidding proved to be a damp squib considering the amount of interest RIL's giant gas strike in the Krishna Godavari basin had created worldwide.

“Companies like Exxonmobil, Total Fina of France and Petronas of Malaysia were said to be interested in the Indian acerage especially in the deep sea but none came,” they said.

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